Words Matter

By Erin Bird

We’ve been in a series entitled From the Heart, looking at how the Scriptures view the “heart” of mankind. The past three weeks have covered the idea that your “heart” is the seat of your emotion, your thoughts, and your will.

Today, I want to make a slight shift. Over the next two weeks, I want to look at how your “heart” (emotions, mind, and will) affect your words and actions. Colossians 3:17 reminds us to do everything, whether “in word or deed,” for the glory of God. So let’s use this week to briefly consider how our words come from our heart and can be part of our worship of God. (We’ll tackle “actions” next week.)

Words Tied to Heart

In Romans 10:8-10, the Apostle Paul helps us see that the mouth and the heart are intricately connected.

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:8-10 ESV)

Remember, as you see Paul use the word “heart” here, he is talking about a person’s emotions, thoughts, and intentions. And he is saying it is with that “heart” a person places their faith in Christ. Think about it: The moment of salvation…

  •     isn’t just an intellectual understanding,
  •     nor is it only a fleeting emotional high,
  •     nor is just a “good idea” made in the spur of the moment.

It is all of that mixed together. The Holy Spirit convicts a person of their sin (John 16:7-8), helps them understand the Gospel (Titus 3:4-5) which leads to an emotional, thoughtful, intentional response.

Because the “heart” is so moved by the Spirit in that moment of salvation, a person can’t help but utter it with their mouth. Saying the words “I believe” doesn’t “save” a person from their sins – only Jesus can do that. But when the realization that Jesus has removed our sin through the cross, we can’t help but declare the truth (i.e. “confess with your mouth”) that Jesus is Lord.

Which means, the words that come from your mouth are actually coming from your heart. But let me ask you: what words are escaping your lips?

Word Well

I have known some people who have struggled with their “words.” They try to clean up their language, or not tell off-color jokes, or lighten up their insults, but they easily slip back into their verbal ruts. Yet James, the brother of Jesus, tells us, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:10)

So if your words aren’t honoring to Christ, what do you do? I would suggest rather than try to simply change what you say, check your heart.

  • Are you struggling emotionally?
  • Have you been intentionally sinning?
  • Have you been lazy with your thoughts?

When your heart (emotions, mind, and will) is delighting in God through the Gospel, it’s easier to have words bubble up that encourage others and glorify God. And you’ll find the course joking, salty language, and rude words become less and less. (Ephesians 5:4)

So when you find your words not building others up or glorifying God, ask Him to change your heart, knowing that as your heart changes, your words will follow.

Worship with Will

Worship with Will

By Erin Bird

Alright, let’s get back to our series called From the Heart where we are studying the biblical idea of your “heart” (not the blood pumping organ) and how it helps you worship God. In the previous two weeks of the series, we’ve seen how the “heart” is the seat of your emotions as well as your thoughts. This week, we get to see your heart’s “will.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines a human’s will as “the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.”We see the Scripture provide a foundation for this definition in Proverbs 16:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
(Proverbs 16:1)

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.(Proverbs 16:9)

The reason man makes his plans from his “heart” is because he was designed this way by God. In the book of Genesis, God created Adam and Eve with this “heart” to make decisions:

With their God-given will, the first humans made decisions, and put those plans into action. Likewise, whenever you make a decision and then put that plan into action, you are exercising your God-given will.

  • Headed to the gym to work out? Your will helped you make the decision to go.
  • Turning off the TV to head to bed? Your will is what you used to push the remote’s OFF button.
  • Saying “no” to dessert? Again, that’s your will in action.

So with this in mind, let’s talk about worship.

Worship with Who?
No, I’m not talking about singing songs to God with a friend named William. I am talking about using your “will” to worship God.

It is my belief that because God designed humans with a will, we should use that will to worship Him (and not use it to eat forbidden fruit!). After all, it is your will you use to get up, get dressed, and go to the Worship Gathering on Sundays. It is your will you use when you sit down to read the Scriptures. It is your will you use when you serve a neighbor or give a generous donation to help a person or organization.

In other words, your will is a key part of your worship of God.

But sometimes, if I’m being honest, I don’t always “feel” like doing some of those things. My sin-corrupted will can sometimes be selfish and tempt me to not worship God, but rather worship self or something else.

Thankfully, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are not alone when you exercise your will to worship God. Romans 8:11 informs us that, if you have placed your faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the redemption of your sin, “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.” This is why the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:13 that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

This means that exercising your will to worship God is more about surrender than effort. It isn’t about mustering up the strength and courage to worship. Rather it is about submitting yourself to God, allowing His Spirit to move your will/heart to give Him attention and glory even when you may not exactly feel like doing so.

One last thing: When you use your heart’s will to worship God consistently, it begins to become a pattern, a part of who you are, making it easier and more exciting to worship God rather than an internal battle. So let me encourage you today to do at least one small act of worship no matter your mood. It might be…

  • spending a moment contemplating a Bible verse
  • singing a song in your heart while doing chores or driving
  • stopping for 60 seconds to pray for a friend
  • or simply celebrating throughout your day by praying “God, thank you for Jesus.”

So may you worship God “willfully,”making a decision then acting upon that plan to give God glory and thanks in the midst of your everyday.

Fervency in Prayer

Fervency in Prayer

By Erin Bird

Last week, I kicked off a three-week series on prayer. Our first “F” was “Frequency in Prayer.” (If you missed it, catch up on the Riverwood blog.) This week, we continue the series with “Fervency in Prayer.”The dictionary defines fervent as “having or displaying a passionate intensity.” This definition makes us think of sports fans, or protestors, or even a demanding child. But prayer?

Some of you grew up in (or at least were exposed to) church traditions where prayer was very solemn and subdued. After all, when praying to God, these church traditions taught us to be respectful to the Almighty. So our prayers were said with meekness, calmness, or even a “ritual-ness.” To be “passionate” in prayer, therefore, almost feels irreverent.

But an honest read through the book of Psalms reveals a type of prayer that could only be described as passionate. Take Psalm 42 for instance. The authors (the Korahites) express a deep longing for God. We see them openly share about their depression. We see them cry out to God for help. Psalm 42 is not a calm prayer. It is filled with emotion. The authors are very passionate (dare I say “fervent”) in their prayer.

But Psalm 42 is not the only example.

  • We see the Israelite people in Exodus 15 passionately sing a prayer of thanks to God after rescuing them from their Egyptian pursuers by bringing them through the Red Sea.
  • We see the same nation of Israel cry out intensely in prayer as they realize their sin in Ezra 10,
  • And we even see Jesus Himself fervently pray in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He is arrested, tried, and crucified.

In other words, it’s okay for you to bring your full self into prayer, to passionately lay before God your joys, your worries, your short-comings, your desires, or whatever is close to your heart. You do not need to manufacture emotion for God, as He is not swayed by fake intensity. But you also do not need to mute or minimize your emotion either. God simply wants your authentic self.

So it’s okay to be fervent in prayer. Let biblical precedent guide you into being open and honest with the God who loves you and wired you with emotion.

Heavenly Father, help me to be authentic before you, for nothing is hidden from you. You wired me with personality and emotion, so help me to bring my full self into your presence. Help me not to pretend with you, but rather to bring a passionate intensity to my times in prayer with you, for I have nothing without you.

In Christ I pray,
Amen

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Erin Bird

We interrupt our current Advent Conspiracy series (again), to simply wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Take some time today to thank God for Jesus, for His love, and for whatever else comes to your mind and heart. And if you can’t think of what to thank God for, look around, look back, and look deeper. (If that doesn’t make sense, listen to last Sunday’s sermon.)

But on this Thanksgiving holiday, I want to encourage you to do one more thing. I want you to “give thanks” by telling someone “thank you.” It might be a parent for all he or she has done for you. It might be a mentor who invested in you. It might be your spouse for helping you. It might be a co-worker or classmate who served you. It might be a neighbor or anyone that God places on your heart.

As important as it is to “give thanks [to God] in all circumstances,” it is equally important to “give thanks” to those God has used in your life. So shoot someone a text, or email, or even a phone call today just to say “Thank You!”

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